"The social gap in the US is becoming increasingly larger"

ConfeLauraBriggs

Laura Briggs is professor at the University of Massachusetts, where she directs the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality. She is a renowned feminist historian who has combined academic production with a feminist militancy.
 

11/12/2017

"We have lower wages, less time because we work more, and no government policies to fall back on. The United States is regressing to the 1980s and the Reagan Era".

She is author of several books on gender and empire, such as Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and more recently, Children of Somebody's: The Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption", which received the James A. Rawley Prize by the Organisation of American Historians. She wrote an outstanding book on adoption together with UAB professor Diana Marre and has just published her latest work: "How All Politics became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump".

This past November the International Workshop on Reproductive Policies held at the UAB and organised by the AFIN Research Group (Department of Anthropology) invited Professor Briggs to give the opening conference, entitled "Where Did Trump Come From?”.

1- “Where does Donald Trump come from?” as you ask in your conference.
- For many people the result of the elections which made Donald Trump president appeared out of nowhere. But that is not true. Racism and misogyny did not appear overnight.

What happened to the good American who voted for Obama to make them now choose Trump? My conference talks about how white supremacy and neoliberalism have spread through attacks aims at specific forms of reproduction and family forms, especially those of coloured women.
 
The welfare “reform” got rid of aids for single mothers (in portraying those who receive government benefits as blacks and Latinos). They took forceful measures against migrants who are domestic workers. Black and Latino single mothers were blamed for the disaster created by the mortgage crisis, instead of blaming the banks! White nationalism are what made authoritarian politics to rise, and the “inadequate” sex and sexuality of non-whites and non-Europeans were to blame.
 
2- You mentioned in the conference that there is an ever increasing social gap in the United States...
-
Yes, absolutely. A process to privatise many public services began a few years back, and that is why there is increasingly less social aids available in the United States. At the end of the 1990s legislation was passed which would put an end to the state of welfare as we had known it until then. At that moment Walmart was the largest employer in the United States, offering poorly paid jobs.
 
In addition, the privatisation of health has been a scandal. There are more and more poor people, while all wealth is concentrated in 1% of the population.
 
The problem lies in the neoliberal system, which has convinced whites to think of themselves as superior to blacks, and to consider blacks inferior to them.
 
The foreclosure crisis was responsible of evicting thousands of families from their home and served as a racially coded politics that enabled the right-wing to come together. Neoliberalism has knocked the wind out of families. We are regressing to the 1980s, back to the Reagan Era.
 
3- In terms of social welfare, will what is happening in the US also happen in Europe?
- It is not a problem which is exclusive to the United States. It is a shared problem. This is where globalisation is taking us. The crisis is threatening politics related to health, education, welfare. But this is not an economic crisis, this is a political crisis. If it were an economic crisis, the US would be spending so much money on its military, for example. Governments must decide on what they spend their money.
 
4.- How does privatisation affect regular people?
- It has affected regular people in two ways. One, there are corporations with less and less responsibility for the well-being of humans, whether in terms of health or in a wage that supports a family.

Another way is in government policies which have less and less responsibility for people. In everyday life, that translates into families being under more stress. We have fewer wages, less time because we work more, and no government policies to fall back on. If I get sick, or am disabled, or if I lose my job, what will support my family? There was an answer to that in the 1970s. Now all I can think of is: maybe I can turn to my extended family, maybe my partner can get a different job and earn more money, or work more hours. But we are all one crisis away from total disaster.
 

5 - How do reproductive policies affect a country?
It affects individuals and consequently families. I try to put reproductive politics where they belong, at the middle of all political questions. We know that we have a collective interest in having a next generation of educated and well brought up children, who can go to school and grow up healthy. The question of wages and the privatisation of care by government and by business are reproductive politics questions because they have a direct impact on families.
 
They use the argument that stay-at-home mothers are disappearing because now women form part of the workforce; or that if homosexual marriages exist then heterosexual marriages are in danger; or that if immigrants have work, national citizens will not.

 

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